For anyone who has ever taken in a stray, won a goldfish at a county fair, or indulged a pleading child with an impossibly cute kitten, the disarming charm a pet holds over its owner is self-evident. A pet becomes more than just a presence about the house, it is a loyal companion, and for many people, an extended member of the family. But in communal living situations, like in condos and HOAs, the issue of pet rules and restrictions is vital. One person’s joy must not become another’s burden. So lay out the ground rules before the situation becomes hairy—or furry, as the case may be.
“You have to protect the rights of the entire association, of everyone’s quality of life,” says Michael Cervelli, owner and manager of Cervelli Management in North Bergen. “Just as there are rules and laws for people, there are rules for our pets, as well. Each association creates its own regulations, but they’re all trying to accomplish the same things: quality of life and asset enhancement.”
While there is no standardized list of pet rules for New Jersey condos and HOAs, they often dictate the number, size, and type of pets individuals may keep. These restrictions can run the gamut from prohibiting snakes as pets to disallowing animals from roaming freely throughout a building. In certain communities, where units are on large tracts of land, for example, the size and weight limits might be much more lax than in tightly packed high rises.
According to David J. Byrne, an attorney with the Lawrenceville office of Stark & Stark, the most basic restrictions—usually regarding weight limits and the number of pets a resident may have—stem from concerns surrounding the issue of noise. A 100-pound Doberman, after all, could make quite a ruckus jumping around a studio apartment or townhouse unit just overhead. It is also common for restrictions against breeding animals. But violations of these types are rarely where true problems arise. “The practical issue is not enforcing the clear rules—with those there are objective ways to identify issues,” says Byrne.
To a degree, the responsibility of maintaining a peaceful coexistence between pets and people falls on the shoulders of individual owners. “With communal living you have to be conscious of the people around you,” says Cervelli. “If the owner of the pet takes care of his responsibilities, you have very few complaints. It’s not the poor pet’s fault if it lives with someone who is crazy or not a tidy person. What do you expect the pet to do?”